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Tourist driving tour to start at Grant Bridge
By G. Sam Piatt, Portsmouth Daily News, January 16, 2009

SOUTH SHORE, Ky. -- Planning for a tourist-orientated U.S. 23 Driving Tour is nearing completion and should be ready to go by spring.

The tour will begin at the Kentucky end of Grant Bridge and follow Route 23 for over 200 miles, from South Portsmouth to Jenkins and back to the west a bit to Whitesburg, said state Rep. Tanya Pullin, D-South Shore.

"Route 23 will be the starting point and the spine from which tourists can access dozens of country roads that will immerse them in the cultural heritage of our region" she said.

The tour package will include a printed guidebook and two CDs. The CDs, being produced now, can be played by tourists as they drive. They will provide the sounds and stories of the area. A narrator will guide the traveler, who will be able to listen to interviews with local artists and performers for an "entertaining and educational experience," Pullin said.

The guidebook will give information on historical places, such as the old iron furnaces, the EK Railroad, and covered bridges at Oldtown and Bennets Mill.

It will also list restaurants and motels and provide details on places off the beaten path.

Pullin, who lives at Sand Hill near South Shore and whose 98th House District encompasses all of Greenup County, said the tour will provide an opportunity to showcase the county from South Portsmouth to Russell.

Part of the tour would include the planned Welcome Center as the kick-off point. Pullin has pushed for funding for the welcome center, to be located along Route 23 not far from the Kentucky end of Grant Bridge, for several years, but so far no funding for it has been provided.

She doesn’t expect that to happen this year, either. Kentucky faces a $456.1 million shortfall in the general fund budget for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

But she said the tour can go without the welcome center for the time being.

She was able to obtain a small grant for the city of South Shore to erect a new sign along 23 nearly a mile east of Grant Bridge. The large blue and white sign tells drivers southbound on the highway, "Welcome to South Shore, Kentucky, Gateway to the Country Music Highway."

U.S. 23, from South Portsmouth to where it exits the state into Virginia south of Jenkins, was designated several years ago as the Country Music Highway because of all the Nashville country music stars who were born in small communities along the route.

"Certainly the Country Music Highway and the various stars will be included in the driving tour," Pullin said.

The trip will be promoted to various companies providing bus tours.

The family automobile will have its place, too, and Pullin said promoters can only hope that gas prices remain under $2 a gallon as they are now.

State scenic byways, highways list expanded
Designations help preserve Kentucky history
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, January 23, 2009

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Jan. 23, 2009) – Kentucky Transportation Secretary Joe Prather today announced the addition of four corridors to the state register of Scenic Byways and Highways, including a 34-mile stretch of US 150 from Bardstown to Danville, designated the Abraham Lincoln Heritage Highway.

Other routes include the 256-mile stretch of US 68 from Reidland to Lebanon, designated the Highway 68 Heritage Corridor, the 19-mile stretch of KY 8 through Bracken County, designated the Mary Ingles Scenic Highway, and North Cleveland Road in Fayette County.

“These routes have historic and cultural significance,” said Prather. “The scenic byways designation will help identify the special qualities of these corridors and aid in their future preservation and enhancement.”

Stemming from the federal Scenic Byways initiative, the Kentucky Scenic Byways and Highways program defines a scenic byway or highway as having special aesthetic, cultural, historic or archaeological value, worthy of preservation, restoration, protection and enhancement. The program includes approximately 1,600 miles of roadway.

The process for obtaining scenic designation begins with an application through the cabinet’s Office of Local Programs. The Scenic Byways and Highways Advisory Committee reviews applications and provides recommendations to the Transportation Tourism Interagency Committee. The interagency committee then provides a recommendation to the Transportation Cabinet secretary, who makes the final decision.

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Roundabout project back on, officials say
By James Mayse, Messenger-Inquirer, February 13, 2009

The long discussed, on-again, off-again Daviess County roundabout at Kentucky 56 and Kentucky 81 is officially back on, state and county officials said Thursday.

"I'm hoping we can let (bids) ... in the construction year of 2010," said Kevin McClearn, district engineer for the state highway department's Madisonville office. "I think that's a reasonable expectation."

The idea of building a roundabout at the intersection was proposed several years ago, but the project hit several snags. Although federal funds had been allocated to build the roundabout, the project was sidelined in 2006 when estimates far exceeded the $1.393 million allocated for construction and design.

A later estimate lowered the price tag to between $900,000 and $1.4 million, and the project was given the green light in late 2007. But last December, state transportation officials said they were evaluating all roundabout plans throughout the state with the intent of putting some of them on hold.

McClearn said Thursday: "Roundabouts were evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and we elected to move forward with this roundabout.

"We feel like it can work at this location," but work will be done to educate the public about roundabouts, which are more common in Europe than the United States.

"(Education) is going to be important, more so than on a (typical) project," McClearn said.

Some of the initial $1.39 million was spent on design work. McClearn said the Madisonville office applied for and received an additional $1.265 million in federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds to finance the project.

"The funds we have will pay for the whole project," McClearn said. CMAQ dollars are allocated to projects that reduce air pollution. Because vehicles will not have to pause at the roundabout -- as they currently do at the Y-intersection of the two highways -- the amount of smog from idling vehicles will be reduced.

County Judge-Executive Reid Haire said he had written the state Transportation Cabinet, asking it to let the project go forward.

"I was pleasantly surprised," Haire said. "It's my understanding we are on track."

One question that remains is whether Worthington Road will be connected to the roundabout. Commissioners said previously they have concerns that the Worthington Road intersection with Kentucky 56 is unsafe.

Commissioner Mike Riney said he will seek county funding to connect Worthington Road to the roundabout.

"I plan on asking in the country budget to bring Worthington Road into it," Riney said. McClearn said the state will consider adding Worthington Road to the project.

"We're going to take a close look at that in the design phase and whether to put it in or not," McClearn said. But the roundabout should improve traffic backups around Worthington Road even if the road is not directly connected to the roundabout, McClearn said.

"The roundabout ... should help traffic move through that (intersection) more freely," he said.

There is still design work to complete before the project can begin, McClearn said.

"It's going to take probably through the summer to finish the design," he said. "I'm personally excited and I look forward to the project. I'm confident it's going to be an asset to Owensboro and Daviess County."

Governor Beshear breaks ground on KY 61 reconstruction project
Project enhances local transportation network, improves safety
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, February 9, 2009

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Feb. 9, 2009) – Gov. Steve Beshear joined state and local officials today to break ground for the KY 61 reconstruction project. The nearly $23 million investment will improve motorist safety while enhancing the local transportation network.

“During these difficult economic times, we have less money to spend on our infrastructure needs here in Kentucky,”  said Gov. Beshear. “However, we must find the necessary funding to keep our citizens safe and roads properly maintained. This project warrants the need for improvement”

The six mile reconstruction project begins in Sparksville and ends just south of the newly constructed ramps along the Louie B. Nunn Parkway. The new alignment consists of two lanes with truck passing lanes on steeper grades with eight foot paved shoulders.

“This investment will help ease traffic congestion and correct the steep grades, sharp curves, and narrow lane widths and shoulders,”  said KYTC Secretary Joe Prather. “With this project, we remain committed to the effective use of taxpayers’ dollars while not jeopardizing public safety.”

The project also enhances the local transportation network by connecting the new interchange with the Louie B. Nunn Parkway. It also creates an improved north-south corridor from Burkesville to Columbia, which allows for easier access to the newly opened Columbia Bypass. The project’s anticipated completion date is fall 2011.

Beshear talks roads, bridges and incentives with House leaders
By Ryan Alessi, Bluegrass Politics Blog, March 03, 2009

Gov. Steve Beshear made a rare trip to the third floor of the Capitol to huddle with House Democratic leaders about the road construction plan lawmakers are currently negotiating and a plan to create a bridge authority that would work with Indiana.

Beshear also said he made a pitch for a complicated package of economic development incentives his administration is pushing that tentatively was scheduled to come up for a vote in the House Tuesday. That vote will likely be pushed back, House leaders said.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo said legislators had proposed a slew of amendments to the bill.

Beshear said negotiations are continuing on a plan that prioritizes state road construction projects and sets out funding, which will include federal stimulus money.

“I don’t think there’s any problem with the road plan,”  Beshear said, when asked why it still hadn’t been finalized after lawmakers had hoped to finish it by the end of last week. “I expect it to be ready to go in the next few days.”

Beshear said he didn’t know how much money would be available for those road projects. But Stumbo said now is the time to invest in such construction and he would favor selling bonds to allow the state to do more right away.

Lawmakers also will be asked to approve keeping four cents on the gas tax. Those pennies, which were tacked on to the gas tax when the price of wholesale gasoline skyrocketed over the last four years, would otherwise be taken off because of the sharp drop in prices at the pump recently.

Beshear said he was hopeful the lawmakers would approve “appropriate funding”  for the road plan, which would include keeping those four cents.

As for the bridge plan, House Democrats crafted a new version of a state bridge authority plan to update a proposal that emerged late in the 2008 session.

The bill would create a state authority and the ability for local governments to form local bridge authorities to oversee funding and management of bridges over the Ohio River. It also would allow Kentucky to work with Indiana, which would affect the bridges between Louisville and Jeffersonville and New Albany, Ind., as well as bridges between Western Kentucky and Indiana, Beshear said.


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